100 Fascinating Facts About Westchester County



You know a lot about the county. After all, you eat fabulous meals in the restaurants here, buying the kids last-minute birthday gifts in the boutiques and faking an infectious disease so you can catch an Oscar winner’s midday Q&A at our cinemas. You know the local gossip and the back roads. So we got past all that and are bringing you 100 facts about our history, geology, architecture, health, government, and place in pop culture. We’ve got colonial roads, carpet factories, and captured spies, to say nothing of Presidents, pirates, and plutocrats. Lions and tigers and bears? Not so much, but turn the page to read about elephants, alligators, UFOs, and 97 other fascinating, illuminating, informative, eye-opening, fun, and funny facts about Westchester.

1. Westchester spreads out over approximately 500 square miles, making it larger than more than 40 countries and territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lichtenstein, and the Vatican City.

Sleepy Hollow Country Club photo by Marta Kujawa

2. The hills of the Sleepy Hollow Country Club—whose Club House was constructed as a private home in 1893 by Colonel Elliott F. Shepard, husband of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s granddaughter Margaret—do their rolling over a massive 338 acres. The home represents one of the last projects of the Gilded Age–defining architect Stanford White (who also designed the Washington Square Arch and Fifth Avenue mansions for the Astors and Vanderbilts before he was murdered by his mistress’s husband). In 1910, the building was purchased by William Rockefeller (John D.’s younger brother), who sold it to the Club’s organizers the following year. The Club’s 27 original directors included Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, James C. Colgate, Percy A. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, A.O. Choate, Oliver Harriman, and V. Everit Macy.

3. On a stone wall toward the north of Pondfield Road in Bronxville, there’s a plaque that reads, with more than a hint of political incorrectness, “Sunset Hill where, in the year 1666, Gramatan, Chief of the Mohican Indians, signed a deed transferring Eastchester to the White Man.”

4. New York State Assemblyman Mike Spano and his brother, one-time State Senator Nicholas, are just two of the 16 children of former County Clerk Leonard Spano and his wife, Josephine. Despite Leonard’s service in the administration of another Spano—former County Executive Andrew—the two are not related.

5. In 2003, Donald Trump told the New York Times (in characteristic fashion) that Seven Springs, his 55,000-square-foot, 1919 home, was “the biggest house and best house in Westchester.” The house has 17 bedrooms, 29 bathrooms (which the Times called “decrepit”), 36 fireplaces, a walk-in steel safe then holding Windex, and an empty indoor marble pool. Trump bought the property from The Rockefeller University in 1995 for $7.5 million. In 2009, Seven Springs caused a bit of a stir when it was discovered that then–Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was staying there in advance of a U.N. meeting.

6. According to astronomer and “ufologist” Philip J. Imbrogno of The John J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, Connecticut, the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan was visited by UFOs twice in July 1984. Indian Point supplies about 30 percent of our electricity. In his book, Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings, Imbrogno described the crafts as looking like “an ice cream cone” and a “boomerang.” Several other citizens in the area reported flying objects during this period.

7. Contrary to popular assumption (and basic logic), the Cross County Mall in Yonkers is only a small neighbor of the much larger Cross County Shopping Center, which includes a Macy’s, Sears, and a branch of Westchester Community College.

8. According to the MTA, the average weekday inbound ridership on Metro-North from Westchester is 74,785. On weekends, it’s 52,774.

9. Our largest park, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (the entrance of which is weirdly in Cross River), is a spacious 4,315 acres, making it more than five times the size of Central Park’s 843 acres. In total, our 50 parks count almost 18,000 acres of green space.

10. Beware of alligators in Chappaqua. In August 2008, a three-foot alligator was found living in a Chappaqua pond. The gator set up shop in the Pinecliff Sanctuary, and no one knows how it got there. A day after the critter was seen, a wildlife services company caught it. To the person who let an alligator loose in Westchester County: we have too many deer and our taxes are too high to be worrying about predators lurking in local ponds.

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11. Horace Greeley, the mid-19th-century media mogul-turned-politician, was one of Chappaqua’s most revered citizens. Nicknamed “Old Honesty,” Greeley founded the New York Tribune, helped found the Republican Party, and even ran for president against Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. His name is now immortalized in the form of a county high school.

 

 

12. Some movies with scenes that were filmed here: Catch Me If You Can, Rabbit Hole, It’s Complicated, Baby Mama, Across the Universe, The Departed,  Hitch,  The Stepford Wives, Mona Lisa Smile, Two Weeks Notice, A Beautiful Mind, The Family Man, Riding in Cars with Boys, Unfaithful, and Big. HBO series such as Boardwalk Empire, Mildred Pierce, and Kevorkian also have been filmed here.

13. On the other hand, some movies that are supposed to take place here don’t. In 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance, after the bad guys rob the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street (see Tuckahoe Marble, No. 22), they proceed up the “Saw Mill.” Sadly, the filmmakers shot on the Merritt in Fairfield and the Taconic in Putnam instead. We can’t totally blame them, though: we wouldn’t want to drive a convoy of dump trucks up the Saw Mill either.

14. Founding Father John Jay was born in New York City, but his merchant father soon moved the family to Rye, and Jay studied with Anglican pastor Pierre Stoupe in New Rochelle before matriculating at King’s College (now Columbia) at age 14. The New York governor, co-author of the Federalist Papers, abolitionist, and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, retired to a homestead in Bedford.

15. In addition to the first American golf club and dozens of PGA tournaments in the county, Westchester is home to the U.S. Tennis Association. Located along the Platinum Mile in White Plains, the USTA offers a slew of tennis-related benefits to its 226 employees, including free after-work tennis lessons by pros and complimentary tickets to the U.S. Open.

16. While North Salem’s Sal J. Prezioso Mountain Lakes Park today has the highest point in Westchester at 982 feet, 230 million years ago, the pressure between Africa and what is now Connecticut created a jagged 40,000-foot mountain range in our county that dwarfed the Himalayas. The layers of Fordham gneiss found throughout the county also lie deep in the bedrock of Northern Africa.

17. According to historian Bruce Haynes and his Red Lines, Black Spaces, the Nepperhan/Runyon Heights neighborhood in Yonkers was one of the few areas around New York City that represented middle-class status for African Americans throughout much of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the area housed mostly working-class railroad employees (both Italian and African American), but the neighborhood became more racially homogenous and underwent a “class gentrification,” with black salespeople, doctors, and lawyers moving in. In 1928, 26 years before the Brown decision, a lawsuit by Nepperhan residents desegregated the new Roosevelt High School on the east side of Yonkers on the basis that their taxes had helped pay for construction.

18. In 1996, before the new Yankee Stadium and when flashy ads for casinos seemed unthinkable, Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, County Executive Andrew O’Rourke, and New York Governor George Pataki all championed a plan to bring the Bronx Bombers to Yonkers Raceway. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner reportedly was dissatisfied with the stadium’s South Bronx neighborhood and “scouting...for a new home,” while the politicos wanted to revive the waterfront and ailing track.

St. Andrew’s Golf Club photo courtesy of Library of Congress

 

 

 

 

19. Among our county’s many firsts: the first elevator company (The Otis Elevator Company in Yonkers); the first self-made female millionaire (hair-care maven Madame C. J. Walker of Irvington, who was also the first African American female millionaire); the first American golf club (the 1888 St. Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings); the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite (synthesized in 1909 by Leo Baekeland in Yonkers); and the first parkway (the Bronx River).

 

 

20. Athough the series was filmed in Los Angeles, the characters of pioneering 1970s TV series Maude lived in Tuckahoe. The outspoken main character, played by Bea Arthur, began as a left-leaning foil to Archie Bunker on All in the Family. She and the show continued to break TV taboos by openly dealing with controversies—like abortion, drug abuse, and alcoholism—after she was “spun off.” Current Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond is a Republican.

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21. The Ramones were buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Temporarily. Sort of. The Sleepy Hollow tourism website says that punk “brothers” Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Marky shot a music video in an open grave at the Cemetery in 1989. At the end of the video—which mostly just features the band walking around and singing, “I don’t want to be buried in a pet sematary / I don’t want to live my life again”—the foursome is sealed in a hole beneath a mock stone with the band’s name. The video was shot for “Pet Sematary,” the title song of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Neither Joey nor Dee Dee nor Johnny, all of whom have since passed away, chose the spot for their final rest.

 

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22. Tuckahoe Marble, which was at one time “the single most important white marble deposit in America,” according to the City University of New York, was used to build New York City Hall, the New York Public Library’s main branch, St. Patrick’s Cathedral , the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street, the Washington Square Arch in New York City (right), and the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Today, the main quarry, which is next to a playground with a very high fence, lies inactive and filled with water.

23. In contrast to the “Big” one south of us, Westchester is known as the Golden Apple, albeit only to a few of us.

 

24. One local legend says that Huckleberry Island, one of several small islands off the coast of New Rochelle, was home to Captain Kidd’s buried treasure (See No 26). Today, the eastern end of the six-acre island is a protected nesting area for great egrets, snowy egrets, and black-crowned night herons.

25. In Yorktown Heights, there stands a monument to the First Rhode Island Regiment of the Revolutionary War. The Regiment, which comprised predominately enslaved African Americans who enlisted to secure their freedom, was charged with defending Northern Westchester against British and Loyalist troops. Sadly, all the soldiers were slain in a surprise attack by Loyalists on May 13, 1781.

26. Shiver our timbers! Captain William Kidd is said to have traded with Frederick Philipse, one of Westchester’s earliest and wealthiest landowners and slaveholders. Kidd is said to have docked in nearby Tarrytown, and legend holds that he even hid some treasure on our Hudson shores.

27. John Peter Zenger, the Colonial-era newspaper editor, wrote an article about an Eastchester town election that heavily criticized the New York governor. The resulting trial for “seditious libel” led to the enshrining of freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights. Today the intersection of Mill Road and Route 22 in the town is known as Bill of Rights Plaza.

28. Of the 43 cities, towns, and villages in Westchester County, 36 have increased in population since 1980; only seven (Rye City, unincorporated Eastchester, Hastings-on-Hudson, unincorporated Mamaroneck, Briarcliff Manor, Pelham, and Pelham Manor) have decreased.

29. A tunnel of the shuttered and set-to-be-demolished Memorial Field was used to film Coca-Cola’s famous “Mean Joe” Greene commercial in 1979. The stadium, which stands on Sanford Boulevard in Mount Vernon, was dedicated in 1931 to honor the city’s war veterans.

30. Although Boston Post Road has kept its name in many of the Sound-side towns, many don’t know that a post road to Albany ran along today’s Route 9 on the Hudson shores at the same time.

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31. The Glen Island Harbour Club, home to Westchester Magazine’s popular “Best of Westchester” parties, was built in 1879 as a summer resort. By 1923, it was the county’s Glen Island Park and Casino and, during the Big Band Era, helped launch the careers of Ozzie Nelson, Les Brown, The Dorsey Brothers, and Glenn Miller. The casino was closed in 1978.


32. Neil Simon’s play Lost in Yonkers (which many have described as autobiographical) tells the story of two boys left with their extremely hard-edged immigrant grandmother in an apartment above her Yonkers candy store during the Great Depression. The play won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

33. Howard Stern began his radio career in Briarcliff Manor. The boundary-pusher and original “shock jock” started as a disc jockey making $4 an hour at 107.1 WNRW, the predecessor of the (decidedly more genteel) Peak. Stern got the job in 1976, right after graduating from Boston University.

34. Although frequently cited as belonging to railroad tycoon Jay Gould, the Gothic Revival masterpiece Lyndhurst in Tarrytown was actually built for former New York City Mayor William Paulding, Jr., in 1838. Gould, though, was the fourth-to-last owner: his daughter Helen inherited the property upon Gould’s 1892 death and cared for it until her own death in 1938. Helen’s sister, Anna, took care of the property until she died in 1961, when it passed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns it today.

Photo by Bryan Haeffele

Photo by Susie Cushner

35. Dan Barber, 42, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills and a leader of the farm-to-table movement, has been named the Top Chef in the U.S., made it onto Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people, given a TED talk, and been placed on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

36. Beyoncé Knowles is no stranger to Westchester. The video for her single “Best Thing I Never Had,” released in June, was filmed at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough. Other celebs who’ve filmed on Sleepy Hollow’s grounds include Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler for their not-so-romantic, not-so-comedic “rom-com” The Bounty Hunter.

37. According to Crain’s New York Business, “Westchester County is New York’s slimmest, fittest county for its low rates of obesity, inactivity, and diabetes.” Looking at those three measures together, we came across as the healthiest county in the state—yes, even besting Manhattan (which has a higher rate of diabetes).

38. The 2000 U.S. Census ranked Westchester as the 33rd highest median household income county in the U.S., with $63,582.

39. Despite this, Westchester had the highest property taxes in the nation from 2007 to 2010 (the latest year with available data). In 2007, though, the Bureau of Economic Analysis gave us the seventh highest average per capita income in the country at $74,878.

40. Westchester was labeled the ninth best place to grow old by Forbes, which cited “the gorgeous natural scenery along the Hudson River” and our proximity to Manhattan.

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41. Our Pace University made the Forbes top 20 “Colleges That Will Make You Rich” list. The list also included Dartmouth College, Williams College, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. Pace came in at 20.

42. Retail sales in Westchester County were almost $12 billion in 2002, ranking fourth among New York State counties. Our Department of Planning also ranked us fourth in overall sales volume and number of stores.

43. Among the state’s 62 counties, we are also fourth lowest in mortality and 20th lowest in overall morbidity. We are first in overall health behaviors (meaning we have low rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking, motor vehicle crash deaths, sexually transmitted infections, and teen births) and ninth in social and economic factors (including rates of high school graduation, unemployment, children in poverty, single-parent households, violent crime, and others). In addition, our cancer rates are lower than those in the U.S. and are generally falling.

44. Yonkers High school is the 41st best high school in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Horace Greeley is 51st, Blind Brook 55th, and Rye High School 59th.

45. Golf Digest included three of our putt spaces—Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, Hudson National in Croton-on-Hudson, and Winged Foot East, also in Mamaroneck—in its list of the greatest golf courses in the country. Eight of ours made the state rankings.

46. Westchester County ranks among the top five counties in all of New York State in the number of pounds and gallons of synthetic pesticide applied to residential and commercial properties.

47. The county is the fifth most diverse in the state. Despite 75 percent of our population identifying as Caucasian, our “diversity index” (which measures the percent chance that two randomly selected students would be members of a different ethnic group) had risen to 61.7 in 2010, up from 55.1 in 2000. Westchester Magazine’s former home of Elmsford was the most diverse municipality.

48. With an adult illiteracy rate of 13.3 percent, we rank 51st among the 62 counties in the state, but we’re still way below the average state rate of 22.1 percent. The state’s high average is due partially to the fact that all five boroughs of New York City have rates ranging from 24.9 percent (New York County, aka Manhattan) to 45.6 percent (Queens county).

49. Yonkers is the 88th most religious city in the U.S.

50. Westchester ranked as the sixth county in New York in fastest broadband speed and seventh in the number of broadband providers, two crucial measures of modern development and business friendliness.

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51. We are the seventh most populous county in New York State. The six ahead of us are Kings (i.e., Brooklyn), Queens, New York, Suffolk, Bronx, and Nassau. Richmond County, aka Staten Island, comes in at number 10. Westchester is also the 44th most populous county in the country.

Photo by Gabe Palaccio


52. The 79,000-square-foot building for the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College was designed by world-famous architect Philip Johnson to match the rest of the brick buildings on the college’s campus. Johnson’s first residential building was Bedford’s Booth House, one of a series of studies that would lead to his legendary Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, a few years later. Roy Neuberger was a financier, artist, and philanthropist, who died at age 107 last year.

53. Westchester County Airport has appeared on screen doubling for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, as well as New York’s LaGuardia and JFK, in films such as Meet the Parents, Random Hearts, and The Best Man.

54. Scarsdale: Soviet spy haven? Robert Hanssen (pictured) was an American FBI agent who sold state secrets—to the tune of $1.4 million over the course of 20 years—to Soviet spies. He kicked off his treason streak while living in Scarsdale in the late ’70s. Not to worry: Hanssen now spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement at a maximum-security prison in Colorado.

55. Then again, maybe Yonkers is the real spy den. Among the 10 people exposed as part of a massive Russian spy ring in 2010 were former CUNY professor and Yonkers resident Juan Lazaro (below left) and his wife, Vicky Peláez (below right). Lazaro, whose real name was Mikhail Vasenkov, admitted to federal authorities that he passed information to Russian intelligence officials. He was deported to Russia along with the rest of the ring and is said to be trying to make his way to Peru.


56. Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler (whose real name is Steven Tallarico) was not born in Boston—where the band first found success—but right here in Yonkers. He was expelled from the city’s Roosevelt High School for drug use.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

57. On September 23, 1780, outside Tarrytown, British Army Major John André was caught by American militiamen as he attempted to smuggle plans for the fort at West Point, which had been provided by Benedict Arnold. André, who was dressed in civilian clothes, had not planned to make the trip back to Tory lines on foot, but the sloop in which he had traveled upriver was attacked by Americans and forced to retreat without the spy. André was held briefly at the Continental Army post at Sands’ Mills in Armonk before being hanged across the river in Tappan.

58. A Chicago suburb and a neighborhood in western Los Angeles are also named Westchester. In addition, there is a West Chester, Pennsylvania, in Chester County.

59. Philip Johnson (see facing page) wasn’t the only famous architect to draw up plans for the area: Chinese American modernist I. M. Pei designed the global headquarters of MasterCard International in Harrison (which the New York Times called the “architectural jewel of Westchester”), and IBM’s office in Somers.

60. Al Roker’s ex-wife, Alice Roker, is the Town Clerk of Yorktown. She’ll probably roll her eyes reading this (“They won’t let me live it down!”), but who doesn’t love Al Roker? The ex-duo was married from 1984 to 1994, and lived in Yorktown. Alice was recently featured in the Daily Yorktown for revamping Yorktown’s marriage certificates to accommodate same-sex couples.

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61. In 1912, Edwin Armstrong, an inquisitive college student from Yonkers, invented FM radio. His close friend C. R. Runyon later logged the first FM broadcast from his home at 544 North Broadway in Yonkers.

62. Almost 45 percent of Westchester residents older than 25 hold at least a bachelor’s degree, while 22 percent have a graduate or professional degree. All New York City counties outside of Manhattan fall below 30 percent of the population having a bachelor’s. Manhattan, though, beats us, with almost 58 percent of the 25-and-older population holding one.

63. A Dominican nun named Mother Mary Alphonsa founded the first Rosary Hill Home for patients with terminal cancer in 1901. Mother Mary, who was born Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, was the daughter of American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. When she opened a second home in a town called Unionville in 1903, the town was renamed Hawthorne in her honor.

64. New Rochelle, not surprisingly, has a French connection. La Rochelle, a port city in eastern France, is the “sister” to our own Sound-side jewel. French Huguenots fleeing La Rochelle in 1688 came to New York and founded the new Rochelle, and the two cities have had an official relationship of good will—including business and tourist exchange—since 1910.

65. Beatle wives Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono (who emigrated from Japan) lived in Scarsdale; McCartney attended Scarsdale High and  both women attended Sarah Lawrence College.

66. Believe it or not, Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, lived in Mamaroneck. He owned a 28-room house on an island just off Taylor’s Lane in Rye Neck, and the house was the location of extravagant parties, attracting many stars of the era, including Babe Ruth.

67. Nelson Rockefeller lived at Kykuit, the family’s ancestral home in Pocantico Hills, for 16 years and brought works by Giacometti, Calder, Picasso, Noguchi, and Nadelman, among others, to its now-legendary sculpture garden. The former New York governor and eponym of the Rockefeller Republicans served as Gerald Ford’s vice president.

68. According to Eastchester’s website, when a yellow fever epidemic forced President John Adams to leave the then-capital of Philadelphia in 1797, “His Rotundity” (and you thought the press was less cruel and partisan in the past!) took up residence in the home of his daughter, who lived a short distance from St. Paul’s Church, today on Route 22 in Mount Vernon.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

69. The first president to spend time in Westchester was…the first president. Before his rout at the Battle of White Plains in 1776, Washington stayed at the Elijah Miller House, which still stands on Virginia Road in North White Plains.

70. Meanwhile, toward the end of the Revolutionary War, with the British still controlling Tory Manhattan, Washington’s troops were stationed in Dobbs Ferry (which is named for the 18th-century Hudson River ferry service that ran there). The Continental Army set out from there to the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia and victory in the War.

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71. Third Vice President (and killer of Alexander Hamilton) Aaron Burr often tried cases at St. Paul’s Church and, as a colonel in the Continental Army in 1779, took command of the forces in White Plains.

72. Tompkins Road, which runs between Boston Post Road and Fenimore Road in Scarsdale, is named for Daniel D. Tompkins, New York’s fourth governor and vice president under James Monroe.

73. Chappaqua residents former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton often dine at Crabtree’s Kittle House on Christmas Eve.

74. A young John F. Kennedy wrote much of his 1940 Harvard thesis, later published as Why England Slept, at his parents’ house on Pondfield Road in Bronxville. The Kennedys lived at the home, which they maintained along with properties in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and London, from 1929 to 1942. JFK’s thesis dealt with why the United Kingdom was unprepared for the impending WWII. His father, Joseph Sr., was ambassador to the UK at the time.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress


75. William Howard Taft’s vice president, James Sherman, is portrayed in a (fictional) visit to New Rochelle in a climactic scene of E.L. Doctorow’s 1974 novel, Ragtime. Doctorow, himself a resident of the Queen City, describes him as “Sunny Jim Sherman,” who is “a New York State politician with many friends in Westchester.”

76. Robert F. Kennedy—who served as attorney general under his brother, JFK, and was later a New York senator and presidential candidate—attended the Bronxville schools for four years through grade five (repeating third grade).


77. Former First Lady and First Mother Barbara Bush (née Pierce) was born in Rye and attended Rye Country Day School from 1937 to 1940.

Photo courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library     
 

78. After winning the popular vote but losing the presidential election of 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes, Democratic New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden retired to a Yonkers estate, Greystone, a 30-room stone villa built in 1864 by John T. Waring. The Grecian gardens in Yonkers’s Untermyer Park were once part of the property.

79. On February 19, 1861, Abraham Lincoln stopped at the Peekskill Train Station on the way to his first inaugural. One Lincoln historian declares that he was dressed in a new cashmere suit and addressed thousands as he thanked the crowd for his election. The event is commemorated every year with a parade and reenactments by The Lincoln Society of Peekskill.

 

 

80. Painter Norman Rockwell lived in New Rochelle from 1913 to 1939 and would later say that many “of my happiest years were spent” there. He sold the first of his 321 Saturday Evening Post covers in New Rochelle in 1916, and painted many of his most famous images there as well, including the doctor putting his stethoscope to a girl’s dolly and a cheerleader smoothing out the varsity letter on a football player’s sweater.

 

 

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81. Playland (above left) was the first/only government-planned amusement park in the country; it has been seen in many movies, such as Fatal Attraction and Big (above right), and was also featured in the music video for Mariah Carey’s 1995 song, “Fantasy.” The Dragon Coaster is one of only seven pre-1930 roller coasters in the country that is still, well, rolling.

82. Colonel Ichabod B. Crane, the Army officer and namesake of the spooked Washington Irving character (Col. Crane had met Irving in 1814), is actually buried in New Springville, New Jersey.

83. Of Westchester’s population, 21.8 percent claims Hispanic ethnicity, up from 15.6 percent in 2000.

84. According to an Elmsford town website, American soldiers during the Revolution often stole the tail feathers of Tory-owned chickens before storming O’Brien’s Château in Elmsford’s central square for a few hard-earned drinks. Betsy, the tavern’s barmaid, decorated their moonshine with the plumage; and thus, Elmsford birthed “the cocktail.”

85. A sizeable portion of the Montrose/Verplanck/Crugers shoreline is
composed entirely of red bricks. You can even hike through Montrose Point State Forest to “Brick Beach” and see for yourself. (The bricks also are visible from the Cortlandt Yacht Club and George’s Island Park.) They are one reminder of Verplanck’s glory days in the mid-1800s, when 10 factories pumped out 60 million bricks a year. 

86. The 19th-century invention of the Axminster and Moquette looms by the Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company in Yonkers supposedly allowed manufacturers to mass-produce carpets as precisely woven as those that were handmade. The factory, on North Broadway, remained the largest carpet manufacturer in the country until the end of WWII, but it left the county and spread out its operations to plants throughout the United States in 1954. What’s left of the mills has bounced between the city and various developers for the past decade.

87. And you think this past winter was snowy? Seventeen thousand years ago, the Wisconsin Glacier suffocated Westchester and most of New England under a mile of ice.

Photo by Don Sutherland

88. The oldest building in Westchester is the Timothy Knapp House in Rye. The structure dates back to 1667, when Rye was actually part of Connecticut; Timothy Knapp was first deputy to the court of Hartford. The home is now a library for the Rye Historical Society.

89. Philipsburg Manor and the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow and Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers were all part of a vast network of mill sites belonging to the Anglo-Dutch Phillipse family. They might well have gone the way of the other Colonial-era manors, but the families were vocal supporters of King George III during the American Revolution, and the state authorities confiscated the lands of most leading Tories and auctioned them or retained them after the conflict.


90. Australian actor and prolifically vile ranter Mel Gibson was actually born in Peekskill and lived here until the age of 12, when his parents moved Down Under, which may explain why Gibson does not have an Aussie accent. We won’t, though, blame them—or take any responsibility for—anything else about him.

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Photos courtesy of Library of Congress

 

91. The “Cradle of the American Circus” is… Somers? Hachaliah Bailey erected The Elephant Hotel, a Somers landmark, after the death of his first African Elephant, Old Bet. The elephant had originally been destined for a life of farm work, but he attracted so much attention that his farm home evolved into a circus show with a number of exotic animals.

92. Hastings-on-Hudson, a town of just 8,000, has been home to five Nobel laureates, and two of them were graduates of Hastings’s high schools.

Photo by CDR Michael Cosgrove


93. From 1953 to 1973, the USS Westchester County carried tanks for amphibious assault operations in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The Wesco, as her crew called her, was sold to Turkey in 1974 and renamed Serdar, which means “Commander.” It remained in commission until January 2011.

94. According to the Journal News, it was Mount Vernon native Lt. Ira Palm who led a raid on Adolph Hitler’s Munich apartment in the spring of 1945. The dictator was hiding in Berlin, but, as a result of the expedition, Lt. Palm came back to the States with a gold-plated pistol bearing the initials “AH.” Palm, known as “Teen,” grew up on South Eighth Street and was about to embark on a college football career when a car crash in 1932 forced him to shift to music. He played at the famed Glen Island Harbour Club and married Helen Raney, all before the war. He died in 1966 after a career in the Army.

95. A vast swath of what now makes up Eastchester, Mount Vernon, and parts of the Bronx was purchased by New York City merchant Richard Morris in 1670. His legendary descendents included Lewis Morris (a chief justice of the New York Supreme Court who also served as a governor of both New York and New Jersey) and a later relative, also named Lewis, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris, a great-grandnephew, is widely assumed to have written the preamble to the Constitution, and other of Richard’s progeny married into families like the Van Cortlandts and the Van Rensselaers. Morris Avenue and the Morrisania section, both in the Bronx, are named for the family.

96. In 1923, New York City anarchist Harry Kelly purchased land on Lake Mohegan that had once belonged to a General in the Continental Army. Kelly and his associates formed an anarchist commune there, and the school it established continued on for many years, educating children based on so-called broad “liberal or libertarian principles.” The community stood on 450 acres on the south shore of the lake.

97. There are 12 colleges headquartered in Westchester: Westchester Community College, The College of Westchester, Mercy College, Pace University (see No. 41), Sarah Lawrence, Manhattanville College, Purchase College, Iona College, Concordia College, The College of Westchester, Monroe College, and The College of New Rochelle.


98. Revolutionary Road, the 2008 Kate Winslet–Leonardo DiCaprio film that set a new standard for bleakness in the suburban-discontent drama, was based on a 1961 book by Richard Yates and, like the book, was set in a fictional Connecticut ’burb. Yates, though, grew up in Ossining, blocks from the real-life Revolutionary Road (it runs parallel to Route 9), in a house that would later be lived in by another of our great purveyors of quiet desperation among the manicured lawns: John Cheever.

99. And the Ossining beat goes on: when Mad Men’s Drapers resided in Ossining, they lived on the fictional street of Bullet Park, an allusion to the 1967 Cheever novel of the same name.

 

100. As of this writing, 16 Westchester male residents, all of them either in the Army or Marine Corps, have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.